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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Here are some tips that may help some of you starting a clothing brand.

1. Do research. Tons of it! Figure out your target market and your competitors, and read everything you can and soak all of the information you can. You'll probably only remember 25% of what you read, but that is 25% more then you knew before. Now with the internet, free information is in front of your finger-tips.

2. If you're not a designer, but have ideas, try looking for a freelancer designer. A skilled freelance designer should be able to take your sketch or idea and create your vision. Although hourly/project rates are important to look at, one major aspect that is commonly missed is the designers communication skills.

3. Focus on branding. Longevity of a brand consists of customer loyalty. Believe it or not, it's not all about how cool your design is. Choose a theme or style for your brand and stick with it.

4. When looking for a manufacturer or screen printer, be honest and realistic. (before you contact a printer, make sure you have a good idea of what you want & what you need).

5. Although freshly starting brands are afraid to print more than 1-2 designs to start with, if you have the capital, try to print at least 5 different designs. Imagine this from a customers stand point...A customer may "enter" your store whether it is your website or a physical retail, and there they see 1 single design stacked on a table.
This doesn't show much confidence and may turn the buyer off. I see this happening a lot with newer brands that launch a website with only a couple of designs. Remember, visitors take a glance at your website for about 5 seconds before they decide if they want to stay longer.

6. Re-invest your profits into more designs and more shirts. This part should be placed into your business plan. This simple part of business is over-looked by start ups.

7. Patience is key when starting a clothing brand.

8. Figure out a marketing plan. Don't figure since you have great designs that customers will seek you out. It's Vice Versa! You need to keep plugging away and reach the consumer. Put it in front of their face day in and day out. Once again, be patient, it could take awhile. One important thing: Talk, Talk & Talk. Simply talking about your brand can stir up interest.

This is not a complete list, and there is much more to this industry. Some can be explained, some just have to be experienced. I will add more things as they come along. If you have more tips to add to this list, please do so! :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
A couple more things that came to mind today:

1. Don't focus too much on making money. A lot of start up brands start to put all of their effort into turning a profit. Once they start doing this, they lose focus on their brand. Money is always great, but it's not everything.

2. Don't copy. Okay, okay everyone is "influenced" by another artist or designer right? There is nothing wrong with that as long as it is INFLUENCED, but don't take it overboard. Never will there be a 100% original design (intentional or not). Put your own style into your clothing and make it something you would wear and be proud of.

3. Don't sweat the big stuff. What do I mean by that? For instance, if you cannot afford to make custom hoodie pulleys, DON'T! If you cannot afford custom packaging, DON'T! That can come later, if you try everything the larger companies are doing, you will be broke.

4. If you are designing on your own with a vector/bitmap program, you should consider purchasing a pen tablet. It will allow you to create different pen strokes and pressures and is a more natural tool then using a regular computer mouse.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Not becoming profitable is the quickest way to go out of business.
Very true, but I am seeing every clothing brand trying to be the next millionaire overnight. They naturally begin to focus all of their energy on money which can also lead to business failure.

Money is always great, but spread your energy evenly.

1. Attend tradeshows. To name a few of the largest would be MAGIC, POOL, & PROJECT. These shows feature major retail lines as well as independent lines. It also allows you to view future trends that might take place. If you cannot afford to attend all three, I at least suggest visiting Magic Marketplace which will be the most "general" fashion trade show. Magic Marketplace also features a Sourcing section, which allows you to connect with fabric sources, embellishment sources which are located in the U.S. or overseas.

2. The toughest part of a clothing line is probably being recognized by major retailers (if this is your goal). Remember, the decision maker of products that fill retails stores are the BUYERS. Having experience with buyers, the major thing they are looking for when doing their job is looking for things that will obviously SELL! But if you land a major retailer, and they order 1,000 pieces per store, just think about it!

3. Buyers.........Buyers are great people. But that is not to say all of them are the most honest. When pitching your line to buyers, be aware that they may "take" your idea and have a line they already carry copy your idea. And guess what? The next season you might see a similar idea you had, end up on store shelves. Fair? NO. Does it happen? YES.

4. This one continues from #3 about buyers. Although you should keep in mind about the risks of showing your line, you cannot sell your line if you don't show it! Don't be too paranoid about your designs being stolen. Take steps that will help you, such as copyrighting your designs, perhaps trademarking your brand. But do not place "COPYRIGHT COPYRIGHT COPYRIGHT" all over your line sheet! Maybe one small "copyright" disclaimer on the bottom right corner will do.

5. Getting big too fast may not be as great as you think. I've seen brands growing too fast where they cannot fufill their orders on time. Retailers are a major pain when it comes to deadlines. When they say they need it by 12.4.08, they want it earlier or at 11:59pm on 12.3.08! If you don't get it to them on time, they can return it!

6. Always think ahead. If you are just starting out, don't design for this season. Look ahead and design for next season, or the season after. Retailers buy according to the following season.

7. Approach retailers or boutiques early. Buyers have specific budgets, and if you come too late, they won't have any money left for you!

Also check out the above members link to howtostartaclothingcompany.com, great information and a lot of start up brands in there to check out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I have seen varying dates, what is the industry standard for each seasons start/end date?
That's correct, you will see a wide range of dates depending on the retailer. Small boutiques are even harder to guage because they are on their own timeline which could depend on their cashflow and financials.

A general rule would be 3 months before the actual date of each season - up to 6 months before the actual date of each season.

A reminder: If you plan to become a vendor of a retailer, always be sure to ask for clear requirements on their finishing choices. They may require you to apply their hangtags on a certain location, fold them a certain way, box and label them a certain way, UPC barcodes, etc.

Also plan ahead...if you plan to design for Spring 09, you should already have designs for it and be getting prepared to approach retailers at this point. This way you allow plenty of time for print or cut&sew production.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I am a printer not a marketer. What I mean is that I think that you can only be good at one thing. If I spend time selling shirts I won't have time to print them and vise versa. I know that there are companies that do both well. I am not large enough to do that. I am the best in my area at printing but not the best at selling. I have gotten orders because of the quality and service I provide and lost orders because I am not a good sales person. My input is to be good at one thing and let someone else who is good at the other do the other. You know build a better mouse trap thing. If you are a printer get someone to market the tees, if your a good sales person get someone to print them.
Good luck to all in what ever you do.
That's a very good point. I agree that you should let the experts do there thing so that you leave enough energy and focus into marketing. (Marketing is what generates sales).
 

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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
After another crazy busy week, I finally have time to add some more tips:

1. After you have the designs for your collection, organize it with a template. Stock t-shirt templates can be found here: Blank Vector Clothing | Vector T Shirt Template | T-****rs Vector | Outlaw Design Blog - A Graphic Design Blog

Royalty free stock images | Lightbox 't-shirt templates for designers' managed by circler | iStockphoto.com

I just googled t-shirt templates and those two links stuck out the most. A template for your designs will help you approach printers and allow your printers to have a better idea of what printing techniques you are looking for. It also lets them know the locations of your prints as well which can be hard to explain without visual aid.

2. Once you have your collection templates complete, think about other things you wish to have done for your branding. Do you want custom neck labels? Do you want hang tags? If so, this is the time to design those things before approaching anyone.

3. Now that you are fairly organized with your line, approaching printers, tag makers, and other vendors will be a lot easier because you know what you want. Always know what you want before presenting yourself to garment embellishers.

4. Now you might want to think about creating look books, a look book contains your new seasons collections that you can promote your brand with. (this is an option if you plan to sell to retailers). If you do not want look books, another option would be to create a simple website with an online collection portfolio so that your perspective buyers can instantly check your brand out.

5. Don't be cheap on your final garments, most clients work so hard to design and promote their brand, but shy away on spending money on final quality products. Afterall your product IS your brand.
 

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Discussion Starter · #27 ·
1. I just wanted to share this site for those who are just starting out and aren't so great with color schemes. This site should help pick your the colors for your designs.

COLOURlovers :: Color Forums

2. I'm not quite sure if this has been mentioned before, but if you are looking for a specific quality, fit, feel, and prices on your blank garments, feel free to request samples from your printer or vendor. Of course you will probably need to pay for them, but at least you can compare them for yourselves instead of asking just for recommendations.

3. If you are going to make an online catalog, a lookbook, or anything else that will showcase your clothing, take the time to do it right. There is nothing worse then to see all the effort put into a clothing line, but their final presentation is horrifying as if the photos were taken with a cell phone camera. If you can't afford a professional photographer, try searching for a photographer who might barter for some free shirts, or someone looking for portfolio work. If not, you can always ask a designer to photoshop them on a model/blank t-shirt.

4. I don't think pricing has been brought up so here goes. Although the retail price of your garment is soley up to you, there is a general rule you should follow. If you decide that your retail price will be $20, your wholesale price may be $10. Basically your retail price is 2x your wholesale price.

5. Don't price your apparel too cheap. Customers love low prices, but this is where psychology comes into play. Tshirt prices below $10 may be perceived as a cheap quality tshirt that will rip with a few washes. $20-25 tshirts is a good median, not too high, not too low for most clothing brands and the customer will feel as if they are paying for a decent quality tshirt. $20 is enough to cover your costs, and make a profit (of course this is all relative, but generally speaking).
Tshirts costing $35 and above, should be for clothing brands who are playing in the higher class sector. There is a growing audience for $35 tshirts, so don't be shy! If you believe your brand is worthy of $35 tshirts, then your customers will probably pay for it.

6. Research a bit about preparing your artwork for your printer. I just saw a video from Linty Fresh about preparing artwork which may be helpful to you guys: The LF Blog. He also has a good point where he says that your printer will be more willing to work with you if you save them a lot of the headachs and take some easy steps before approaching your printer. Knowing the process of the printing method you choose will also help you design for your print method.

I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving holiday break! I sure did! :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #61 ·
Hey Everyone,

I'm glad this thread is helpful. I didn't expect to get the great response it did. We just opened up operations again, so once things settle in again, I'll be sharing more information!

Perhaps you guys can help me come up with another helpful thread, I'll start it off with, "How to..." you finish the rest of the sentence and I'll choose one to discuss. Sound fun?! :)

BTW: Thanks Rodney for the featured thread!
 

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Discussion Starter · #66 ·
How to make my brand more professional and less homemade look?
Hey TshirtGuru - Henry, Thanks! I'll continue this in the same thread as it is relevant to starting on clothing line as well.

HOW TO MAKE MY BRAND MORE PROFESSIONAL AND LESS HOMEMADE?

1) The first thing that comes to mind is choose a quality blank garment. For instance, Gildan Style 2000's are widely used for basic promotional purposes such as freebies, fundraising, and schools, because they are economical. Unless you are launching an economical clothing brand, I suggest choosing something of higher quality. IE. American Apparel Style 2001 Unisex (very popular due to its slim fit and huge selection of colors) or even Gildan has a soft ringspun fashion fit garments. Yes, the higher quality is more expensive, but it is well worth it!

2) Private Neck Tags/Labels! Two different ways of going about this: Providing your custom woven/printed labels and having them sewn into your shirts. OR Having the original neck tags completely de-labeled and have tagless neck labels printed. Prices amount to about the same for both choices in the long run. Tagless labels are most popular because some customers hate itchy labels and will cut them off anyway after purchasing your shirts.

3) If you are launching a brand and can have a professional screen printer to print them, do so! The word, "professional" is in the actual sentence! A lot of people invest a lot into a start up screen printing kit for the sole purpose of printing their own shirts to sell. If you want to become a screen printer, go ahead. If you are wanting to become a successful brand, think again! Becoming a screen printer takes time, headachs, and long nights, and lots of it. You will also be spending money on equipment that could be going towards your inventory (essentially, you are working backwards). You will also need the space, electrical requirements (higher electricity bill), time, software, which equals more $$$ etc. Are you in the business of printing shirts, or selling them?

4) To go even further, you can add a little finishing touch to your garments by adding little sewn tags onto the bottom hem of your shirts with your logo on it.

5) Last thing that comes to mind, include a little something when sending orders out. Maybe a lollipop, a "thank you" card, or something from the theme of your clothing brand.

I hope this helps! Have a great day~:D
 

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Discussion Starter · #68 ·
1. Attend tradeshows. To name a few of the largest would be MAGIC, POOL, & PROJECT. These shows feature major retail lines as well as independent lines. It also allows you to view future trends that might take place. If you cannot afford to attend all three, I at least suggest visiting Magic Marketplace which will be the most "general" fashion trade show. Magic Marketplace also features a Sourcing section, which allows you to connect with fabric sources, embellishment sources which are located in the U.S. or overseas.
I want to remind everyone that the 2009 Magic Marketplace tradeshow is coming up this February! Here is a link to register: 08-Register-Attendee

If you're planning to start a brand and haven't been to a trade show yet, THIS is the one to go to! :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #82 ·
This thread has a lot fo useful information but one topic that I have found to be missed is what is the difference between trademark vs LLC vs copyright and which one would be the best for a starting brand?
Good question. Well, out of trademark, LLC, and copyright, the LLC does not belong in that category.

A LLC is a short term for a Limited Liability Company which is a form of your business entity. There is also a choice of a Sole proprietorship, Corporation, S-corporation, Limited Liability Partnership, & General Partnership. Choosing one will depend on your preference and plans for the future. Generally, most people choose one entity over the other due to benefits of taxations and simplicity. Most small business' tend to file as an LLC.

You can file your business with the secretary of state (in most states). To check your state, try google searching your state laws and a government site should show up.

Now on to Trademarks and Copyrights which is an entirely different arena...

Trademarks protect your name, symbol, logo, brand, phrase, name, image or all of the above and more. If approved for your trademark, you claim ownership of using that mark as your own and nobody could legally use it without your permission. You will usually see a TM or a R next to a trademark.

A "TM" can be used without filing your trademark (it means the mark is not registered yet, but you have intent to do so in the future). But beware, just because you're using a TM doesn't mean you own it, someone else in the world might have the same mark as you and could of had it before you.

A "R" next to a mark means it has been approved and it is legally registered.

Trademarks can become expensive and you're not guaranteed of approval. If you're not approved, you do not receive a refund. Trademarking can also takes years to be approved.

As for copyrighting, I will place this quote from wikipedia as it gives a better summary:

"Copyright (or ©) is a form of intellectual property which gives the creator of an original work exclusive rights for a certain time period in relation to that work, including its publication, distribution and adaptation; after which time the work is said to enter the public domain. Copyright applies to any expressible form of an idea or information that is substantive and discrete. Some jurisdictions also recognize "moral rights" of the creator of a work, such as the right to be credited for the work."

In the apparel business, you might specifically want to protect your graphics so you would copyright them. With experience, most apparel business' that have been around for a long time don't bother copyrighting their apparel graphics because they are always changing it to keep up with the trends.

So in short to answer your question on which is best for an apparel business is hard to answer as everyone has different situations. BUT, I have mostly seen most brands using a LLC as the entity and attempting to trademark their brand, but many do not bother to copyright.
 

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Discussion Starter · #98 ·
Hey Everyone,

I wanted to share a recent story which will help some of you guys out when starting your own brand.

I know how exciting it can be to think of the coolest brand name. But many neglect researching the name and in turn it can come bite you in the rear later down the road. Out of respect, I will not mention the brand I am directly speaking about but recently a small start up brand found out that they were in violation of trademark laws.

To make it easier to follow, I will name the original brand the "OB" and the brand that is in violation "BV".

Well, the OB had bought the domain name but didn't exactly launch their website yet. BV asked OB if they had plans to launch clothing. OB responded that they weren't going to. BV launched their line with the same name as OB.

About 6 months later, OB decided to launch their line. BV found out and contacted them about buying the name from them. OB refused the offer. BV finds out OB already has a trademark on the name.

BV is now shutting his brand down and has to start all over with a new one. I know he put a lot of work into his line and printed about 8 designs already. Now he is liquidating all of the merchandise.

So the tip here is: Research your brand name. See if there is an owner for that name. Search it using the trademark website, http://www.uspto.gov/ , Google it, just do everything you can to make sure there isn't an existing owner before you start.
 

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Discussion Starter · #119 ·
Hello I'm staring my own busines and all this is brand new too me. i am starting off with a heat press and I nee too know the basics on what else inees as far as a good inexpesive priner ,paper and etc. to get me startd...can u help me PLEASE!
Hi OneIceColdDiva,

This post is more for tips of how to start a clothing brand. I think you will receive a better response in the "HEAT PRESSING" thread. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #120 ·
i was wondering about this one. a representative from first edition was talking about certain fonts with thin swirling lines that won't come out. it gave me the impression that the line styles i get from a pressure sensitive tablet would be difficult to get out of plastisol. what can you get away with?
That's a good question. All printers have different requirements, our minimum line weight should be about 1pt. That may also depend on your specific design.
 

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Discussion Starter · #121 ·
So you have printed your line, printed stickers, and you're hyped! But how in the world are you going to get your brand out there?

I hear start ups talking about how they would give out shirts for promotion. This doesn't work! This can also devalue your product. If the consumer likes your shirt, they will buy it.

So here is a simple list of things you may want to try out:

1. Go to a tradeshow with your target audience. Perhaps your target audience are musicians, so go to a tradeshow that is selling music equipment. Ask if the venue allows vendors, and sell sell sell!

2. Register as a vendor at Magic Marketplace. This is where all buyers go to view and order upcoming styles.

3. Do you have a local art fair or marketplace? Register for a booth and get your products in front of your audience!

4. Contact small retailers-boutiques around your city and send them a lookbook or speak to them briefly about your product. Very important: Choose stores that already carry products relating to your style.

5. Contact blogs and t-shirt review websites, it's usually free to have a little interview posted about your brand. Sometimes they ask for a few free t-shirts so they can review them.

6. Wear your shirts. Wear them everywhere!
 

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Discussion Starter · #123 ·
so it not good to give out one or two shirts? thanks
I guess I'm not really saying it's not good, but you probably won't get the return you are looking for. It also de-values your brand by giving it away for free, instead you may look into giving stickers or buttons for free. Cheap and people like them!
 

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Discussion Starter · #136 ·
This thread is incredible and from word of mouth I heard INK SCREENS (as a company) is VERY good if I am allowed to say so.

Anyway, Alex, you got me a little nervous from some of your early posts. I have not yet gotten a registered TM on my new name, but I own shirts with then name on it.. 2 websites.. a myspace.. blogs.. etc.

I am in the process of getting the name TM but it is not complete, should I be worried since all mysites are public and getting a lot of traffic?

Thanks Alex.
Thanks TigerTiger.

Dot-Tone explained it pretty well already and basically it's a first come first serve if you haven't been approved for the TM yet. Registering a TM can take awhile, and in the meantime if someone tries to start a company using your name, you'd most likely have to hire a lawyer and go to court to prove you were first to use that name. Now, proving you were first can be difficult, but if you already have websites and you're selling products under that name, you have more substance to work with. Unfortunately, there's nothing you can do to speed the process up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #192 ·
Thought I'd update the thread a bit by adding some more tips that may be useful to someone starting out.

1. Before you launch your brand be sure to create some hype and interest in your products. Submit your designs and tshirts to bloggers that targets your market. Maybe your line targets streetwear, then submit to bloggers that like streetwear. Is your clothing brand targeted to gamers? Then submit to gaming sites. You get the point. There are thousands of visitors that check these blogs daily so you are sure to get noticed.

2. Use twitter or other free online marketing tools. Update any news or sale deals you may have going on for your launch.

3. Start your own blog! Check out TheHundreds.com or JohnnyCupcakes.com. They both feature blogs that they update very frequently which interests customers. Blogs also give the customer a reason to visit your site often which potentially means increased sales!

4. Add a small personal touch to all your orders. Perhaps you can hand write a small thank you postcard and sign it. You'll be surprised at how far a simple thank you note can go. (If you're brave enough, send an autographed potrait lol).

5. Make friends. Contact other clothing brands and communicate with them. Perhaps later you can even collab an entire line.

6. Always have fun :). Although this is a tough industry to compete in, don't forget to enjoy the process.

Later kids.
 

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Discussion Starter · #202 ·
Whats a good quality pen tablet to get?
Mike,

The most widely used pen tablet brand is a Wacom tablet. Wacom - Intuos4 Tablet

They just came out with the Intuos4, so you're just in time! Actually, you might want to look into purchasing an Intuos3 as the price may be lower now.

One thing to consider is not to get too large of a tablet. We went over board in our art dept. and bought several of the largest ones. Then we realized it is actually a pain to work with sometimes and if one of the designers needs to take it with them on travel, it's too large and heavy. I would suggest sticking with either a 4x6 if you plan to travel with it at all, or a 6x11 if you plan to leave it at your office.
 
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